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Investigate a number of potential sites from the outset to avoid disappointment. Your ideal site may be unavailable because of soil contamination or other reasons.
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There are many resources available for those interested in starting a community garden, including OSU Extension (OSUE), workshops and classes, start-up guides, and existing community gardeners.
OSUE can help you:
Visit the OSUE website or call (216) 429-8200
Contact the Building & Housing Department at 216-491-1473.
Contact the Building & Housing Department at 216-491-1473 as soon as you have an outline of what you want to do. The City is best positioned to provide you with assistance on City regulations and processes and connect you with relevant resources. Contact the City for information related to:
A simple soil test is required for gardens because it provides critical information about contaminant levels, nutrient levels and recommendations for amending the soil. Learn more about soil testing at the Ohio State University Extension service.
You will want to ensure that you get enough water to meet the needs of the plants planned for the garden. Some of the common ways to access water for a community garden include:
Consider sharing the cost of water with a neighboring homeowner who is willing to supply water with a nearby spigot from their home.
Rain barrels collect and store rainwater, typically from a garage or house roof, that would otherwise be lost to runoff and diverted into storm drains. If your site does not have a building or garage, consider whether neighboring homeowners would allow you to install and use rain barrels at their homes or garages. The City encourages rain barrels be located at the rear and side of homes and be screened from the street view by landscaping.
A rain barrel is usually constructed out of a 55 gallon drum and connected to a gutter downspout. In the City, rain barrels are permitted as long as drains and/or overflows from the barrel do not flow back toward the building or create a nuisance condition. Typically, this issue is addressed by using a diverter, which does not permanently disconnect the downspout for a rain barrel. The diverter allows water to collect in the rain barrel until it is full, and then allows the overflow water to run down through your downspout as it was originally designed.
Although spigots have a relatively high upfront cost, it makes water access easy and convenient for the life of the community garden. Use of a spigot on City-owned lots will be discussed on a case-by-case basis with applicants for City-owned properties. To set up an account for a metered spigot on privately-owned lots, complete the Cleveland Water's domestic application and letter of intent, and submit, along with a plot plan showing the location of the connection and the vault being used to Cleveland Water's Permit and Sales Department, which can be reached at 216-664-2444 ext. 5203.
Although fire hydrants are located in the City of Shaker Heights, the City of Cleveland supplies water to the hydrants and is responsible for water usage permits. Therefore, it is necessary to obtain permits from both Shaker Heights and Cleveland Water to use water from a fire hydrant for your garden:
To obtain a Shaker Heights Hydrant Use Permit:
To obtain a Cleveland Water Usage Permit:The Cleveland Water Department issues Community Garden Permits. Find additional information on permits on the Cleveland Water website or contact the Permit and Sales Unit at 216-664-2444.
Zoning ordinance sections related to fences, setbacks, signs, and structures are the sections most likely to apply to a community garden. For guidance related to these and any other applicable zoning regulations, contact email Dan Feinstein at the Planning Department at 216-491-1435.
The following are some additional considerations for those interested in starting a community garden:
Call 216-491-1473 for information about available and suitable City-owned vacant lots.
Gather the information needed to complete the Board of Zoning Appeals/City Planning Commission (BZA / CPC) application.
For questions or additional information related to zoning or CPC, email Dan Feinstein or call 216-491-1435.
The costs will vary depending on the size of the site, materials and plants used, type of water access, and site plans. Contact OSU Extension at 216-429-8200 if you need help creating a budget. Consider what costs your garden might incur for:
Timing depends on how long it takes to get your group organized and any unique challenges or opportunities posed by your site and plans. If you are using a City-owned lot, you should start the process at least 5 months in advance of wanting to plant because you will need to get on the agenda of several different City committees.